A US Soldier of Kenyan Descent Who Was Killed Remembered


It wasn’t until Appleton resident Bryan Van Stippen logged onto Facebook that he discovered his close friend, an Army soldier, had been killed in a mysterious attack on the other side of the globe.

Not hearing from Anthony Warigi for months was normal, but with Warigi’s deployment in Afghanistan about to end, the two expected to reconnect this summer. Turns out, Staff Sgt. Warigi was killed months earlier and had already been laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

Details are hard to come by, but news reports and family say Warigi was gunned down in an attack in April while on leave in his native Nairobi, Kenya. Van Stippen made the discovery in late June and scrambled for answers.

"I started freaking out and thought that couldn’t be right," Van Stippen said. "I saw a family member had posted (on Facebook) and gave her my phone number. She called within 10 minutes. They didn’t know our last names or how to get in touch with us. We hadn’t met any other brothers and sisters until then."

Bryan and his brother Nathan, also of Appleton, befriended the fun-loving Warigi eight years ago after meeting as regulars at what was then Jokers, now the Recovery Room bar in Appleton. They are now working to find jobs and homes for the soldier’s large family to relocate to the Fox Valley.

Warigi, a Kenyan emigrant, studied at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard and was first deployed in 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to state records. In 2006, Gov. Jim Doyle recognized Warigi via a live satellite link during his State of the State speech in Madison.

Warigi later enlisted in the active-duty Army, and deployed to Iraq and again to Afghanistan last year. He was eight weeks away from completing his tour with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, and returning to Appleton when tragedy struck.

Investigation under way

From what Bryan and Nathan have gathered, Warigi, 40, was killed after a night with old friends in a "shady" situation that he was trying to escape.

A short newspaper report in the Nairobi Star says "thugs" in the city’s dangerous Kawangware slum shot him.

"According to police, the gangsters, whose motive of attack was not immediately established, sprayed (Warigi’s) car with bullets before speeding off," the story said on April 9.

The Van Stippens think Warigi may have been targeted for his money or because he was a U.S. soldier.

Army casualty notification officers were in touch with Warigi’s family in Kenya a day after the attack. In Neenah, other officers contacted the man’s youngest sister, Elizabeth, a junior finance major at UWO. Warigi’s ex-wife and daughter also live in Oshkosh.

Anthony’s sister, Elizabeth Warigi, who joined him in the U.S. in 1996, has had months to consider what happened, and her theories range from a simple mugging to an Army mission gone wrong.

"The way things are turning out — it’s just weird. I’ve been talking to my sister who was there. He landed and it was almost like he was putting some distance between him and his family. He seemed like he didn’t want anybody to be around if something bad happened. … With the way Tony valued family, for him to be there without seeing them? That’s not Tony."

In addition to Warigi’s odd behavior, Elizabeth is suspicious because she says Army officials were at the hospital immediately after the attack and collected evidence, including performing their own autopsy.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command in Quantico, Va., told The Post-Crescent that Warigi was on leave when he was killed April 5 in Nairobi.

"To protect the integrity of the investigation, we are not releasing details of the investigation at this time," the spokesman wrote in an email.

No matter the circumstances, Elizabeth said her family was crushed by the news, especially because Anthony had taken on a paternal role since the death of his father years earlier. She is thankful to have connected with the Van Stippens.

"To meet with them and find out how heartbroken they were was hard. I wish I would have known so they would have had a chance to say goodbye at Arlington," Elizabeth said. "Tony was one of those guys that you never thought something like this would happen to. He seemed untouchable with his tours of Iraq."

Finishing Tony’s dream

In the months since learning of the attack, the Van Stippens have worked to contact five other Warigi siblings living in Baltimore since the burial. They all traveled to Appleton this past weekend, along with their seven children, for a memorial and fundraiser.

The siblings are applying for asylum in the U.S. and are interviewing this week with immigration officials in Washington, D.C. They hope to relocate to the Appleton area permanently to live near Elizabeth and the friends Anthony made in the Fox Cities.

Bryan Van Stippen said the fundraiser held Saturday night in Appleton raised more than $6,000 for the effort to coordinate homes and jobs for the family.

"Tony’s ultimate goal was for everybody to be here and to give them a better life than in Nairobi," Van Stippen said, adding the immigration process could be completed by mid-November and the family could move before Christmas.

Nathan, who called Anthony his other brother, said he’ll miss the late-night "debauchery" and cold winter days building backyard snow forts as the Kenyan shivered nearby. Anthony celebrated holidays and birthdays with the Van Stippen family for years.

"I’ll definitely miss the below-the-belt comments. We always gave each other a hard time," Nathan Van Stippen said. "He fit in really well with the sarcasm and was part of the family."



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